Front-row crisis forces Sheens hand - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Front-row crisis forces Sheens hand

By Todd Balym 07/10/2009 07:48:56 PM Comments (0)

A front-row crisis in Australia has forced coach Tim Sheens to name three rookies and a veteran who hasn't played in four months for the Kangaroos' Four Nations tour.

Petero Civoniceva, 33, is Australia's only capped prop in the 24-man squad with Bulldogs' Ben Hannant, Melbourne's Brett White and Canberra's David Shillington all picked for their debuts.

It is the second successive year Australia has picked only four recognised front-rowers.

This is despite the Kangaroos being taught a lesson in last year's World Cup final when Steve Price and Josh Perry were injured and the hosts got trampled by New Zealand in a shock final defeat.

Price is again unavailable for the tour due to an eye injury, while fellow incumbent Luke Bailey (arm) withdrew from selection and Manly pair Perry and Brent Kite were dumped.

St George Illawarra prop Michael Weyman (groin) wasn't available, while teammate Justin Poore joined the likes of David Taylor, Nate Myles, Nick Kenny and Luke Douglas in being overlooked.

Despite being selected, Hannant and White may not even be fit to tour.

Hannant has an arm injury while White had MRI scans on his injured shoulder on Wednesday and will be one of Sheens' biggest concerns at a medical in Sydney on Thursday.

Sheens has earmarked Parramatta's Nathan Hindmarsh and Brisbane's Sam Thaiday as potential second-rowers who can play up front.

Shillington meanwhile is considered the squad's biggest bolter, one of eight players picked from sides not involved in the NRL finals and again riding into a representative jumper on the back of an injury.

The Canberra front-rower made his Queensland Origin debut in game three on July 15, replacing Civoniceva who has not played since a severe toe injury in Origin II on June 24.

Sheens said Shillington came with a glowing recommendation from Maroons coach Mal Meninga, who also took the 26-year-old to Papua New Guinea with the Prime Minister's XIII side last month.

"With Price not there and Bailey not available and Weyman not available there was a lot of issues with the front row," said Sheens.

"A lot more than people would be aware. A number of people made themselves unavailable and have battled with injury.

"It has been a hard season for the forwards in the NRL.

"Young Shillington has played well at the back end of his season, played well for his state and he did well for Mal.

"Mal gave him a good rap there in PNG. I think his body shape and go forward is the sort of thing we're looking for with Price not playing."

Shillington said he was ecstatic with his Test call up, receiving the news while visiting his parents in Brisbane.

After making the most of his opportunity to replace Civoniceva in a Maroons jumper, Shillington wants to do likewise in the green and gold and cap a stunning debut season with the Raiders after leaving the Sydney Roosters in 2008.

"Obviously I am very excited and it's pretty overwhelming too," said Shillington.

"I never would have thought over the last couple of years or even this year that Australia was in my grasp.

"It's a big opportunity and it's something I will definitely take as best I can."

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